The Relationship Approach
Person-Centred, aka Client-Centred, therapy is focused on you, not your therapist. You’re viewed not as a case, but as a flesh-and-blood individual, with individual experience, capable of coming to your own right decisions and answers.
This approach sees our actualisation (reaching our potential) as inevitably blocked or distorted by our life experiences, particularly those which led us to feel that we are only loved or valued if we behave in certain ways or have certain feelings. Due to the deep human need to feel valued, we tend to warp or deny those thoughts and feelings that we believe aren’t acceptable.
The main premise behind Person-Centred therapy is that what a person needs to achieve wellness is an atmosphere where anything you disclose, even if it seems irrational or socially unacceptable, will be met without judgment. Person-Centred therapy lets clients be themselves, safe in the knowledge that whatever their issue may be, they’re a person of worth and value.
The therapist works to understand the client’s experience from the client’s perspective, and to positively value the client as a person in all aspects of their humanity, while aiming to be open and authentic. These attitude of the therapist towards the client will only be helpful if the client experiences them as real within the relationship, and so the relationship between the therapist and client is fundamental to the success of therapy. Being client-centred, this kind of therapy allows you to proceed at your own pace. You can take as little or as much time as you need to get to your goal.
How does it work?
Carl Rogers, the originator of the Person-Centred approach, advocates three elements (among others) for therapy that make the Person-Centred approach effective. These three are: unconditional positive regard, empathy, and congruence.
Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) refers to a non-judgmental acceptance of the other person, warts and all. UPR encourages vulnerability in clients, to the point of being able to be open about your darkest secrets. UPR breaks the barrier between therapist and client, making the therapeutic relationship more of an encouraging conversation between equals, instead of the traditional imbalance of expert and patient.
Empathy, on the other hand, is the ability to place oneself in the shoes of another person, to understand the client’s experience and feelings sensitively and accurately in the present moment. Person-Centred therapists listen empathically to their clients, which makes them effective in mirroring their clients’ emotions. Being able to identify and articulate emotions helps clients make sense of their own selves.
Congruence, meanwhile, is a therapist’s ability to be authentic, without any psychological defenses. When therapists effectively model congruence to their clients, clients learn how to be authentic themselves. The freedom to be true to one’s self permits self-exploration, self-acceptance, and consequently, self-change.
What issues does it treat?
Person-Centred therapy is for everyone, not just for those experiencing distress or dysfunctionality. In fact, this approach is the building block of most other therapies; it creates facilitative trust.
If you’re looking for a therapeutic method that doesn’t feel restrictive, one where you won’t be rushed into anything that you don’t want to do, then Person-Centred therapy is for you. This approach is most helpful for individuals feeling constrained and needing an atmosphere where they can simply be themselves. People with self-esteem issues, in particular, benefit greatly from Person-Centred therapists.
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